It had been a whole year since he'd returned from Costa Rica. A whole year since the crushing weight of failure had awakened him to what he'd sacrificed. And that sacrifice now looked him in the eye and said the words he'd craved like an addict for so long.
"I've found him, Red."
Cheshire had him rehabilitated in a matter of weeks. He would've thought that the time meant for catching up on sleep, re-training himself in marksmanship, regaining all that shrunken and atrophied muscle, and being force-fed five thousand calories a day would have crawled by at a painfully sluggish pace now that he knew that his absolution was soon to come, but he filled out and they were on a chopper - piloted by his new co-rescuer - before he'd really had time to wrap his head around the idea.
They were going to find him.
While he was in shock, he'd asked her how the hell she'd gotten Roy's location after the League and then he had sought for it for years.
"I can go places you good guys don't," was all she offered in reply.
Though he questioned his current good guy status, he hadn't pushed it.
The Tibetan Himalayas were ringing with the roaring winds of a snowstorm, but he felt no cold. If Cheshire hadn't stuffed him into a parka, he would've leapt out of the helicopter with his usual bare arms and thin spandex.
"Get your head on straight," she'd growled over the shriek of the gale, and he felt her vice-like grip on his wrist even through his numbing anticipation. "No mistakes tonight."
And there weren't any. No major ones, anyway - inadvertently alerting all the converted temple's guards to their presence hadn't derailed the mission in the slightest. The two of them, surprisingly enough, made a good team; their wood-be killers were barely a challenge to their combined strength and speed.
The real challenge was facing him.
He looked so young. Nothing like the reflection he'd been examining in the mirror ever since that fateful night. He was just a boy, really - the child that had bitten off more than he could chew and had been abducted at the ripe age of fifteen. And then there was his wound.
It was him. The real Roy Harper, after all this time - he couldn't believe it, but there he was.
He didn't regain consciousness when Cheshire opened the hibernation pod, or when he was caught by his matured double, or when they wrapped him up and carried him out into the storm. He was motionless all through the trip back to Star City.
He didn't respond to the doctors in the ICU, or to the sound of Oliver's astonished and overjoyed voice. He didn't wake for any of the tests that were run on him, or for the parade of incognito capes that came to visit - to pay their respects.
It was unreal. So many years of believing, of researching and hunting and slumming for leads. He knew there might not be much of a Roy Harper left to find, but seeing him surrounded by monitors and white coats and hushed friends was not what he'd pictured.
"Are you his next of kin?" a nurse had asked once. Their identical features and bone structure were a dead giveaway.
Was he? If not him, then who else?
They'd given him forms to fill out and sign, but what was he supposed to write in the "relationship" box? Clone? They would have him hospitalized, too - the news that that kind of technology existed hadn't been released to the public yet. Son? No one would believe that - a teenager couldn't possibly have fathered a man in his twenties. Besides, they couldn't have been farther from father and son.
"Why not 'brother'?" Cheshire had suggested from beside him, in her typical bored voice with raised eyebrows. Always with the taunting.
She hadn't left him that first night. Which was probably a good thing - he would have struggled over that simple question for weeks if she hadn't been there to fill in his confusion with her reason, however mocking.
"Brother," he'd repeated, and looked through the glass wall that separated the two Roys. His smaller, rounder face was younger, lolling backwards on the enormous hospital pillow, but still his own - ten years ago, he'd had that same face. "Brother." It didn't exactly fit, but it was the closest they were going to get.
"I can do that."